Police Scotland faces overtime surge amid hate crime legislation fallout

Wednesday 10th April 2024 04:59 EDT

According to David Kennedy, the general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, Police Scotland has been compelled to compensate control room personnel for overtime due to a surge in complaints under Scotland's controversial new hate crime legislation. Kennedy estimated that the expenses incurred in enforcing the law, including overtime payments and other expenditures, would amount to "hundreds of thousands" of pounds.

The Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) Act, which came into effect on Monday, has reportedly prompted over 6,000 complaints. This legislation, supported by the SNP government along with Labour and the Liberal Democrats, extends existing offences related to racist abuse to include age, disability, religion, sexual orientation, or transgender identity, excluding sex.

While admitting that some complaints made since the law's enactment were "vexatious," Hamza Yousaf, the SNP First Minister, acknowledged the strain on police resources. Kennedy disclosed that the additional workload has necessitated overtime payments to control room staff, who are primarily responsible for sifting through the complaints.

Kennedy emphasised that despite the influx of complaints, only a small percentage translated into actual investigations. He clarified that control room personnel are tasked with reviewing complaints to determine if they warrant further action, thereby minimising the impact on officers patrolling the streets.

Expressing concerns over the lack of additional funding or personnel to address the new law's requirements, Kennedy anticipated a lasting impact on police operations. He stressed the significant financial burden incurred by Police Scotland due to the legislation. In response to Yousaf's plea to refrain from making frivolous complaints, Kennedy reiterated the strain on police resources, highlighting the "detrimental impact" on other areas of the force. He criticised the absence of provisions for handling the additional workload imposed by the new law.

Meanwhile, JK Rowling, in a series of tweets, challenged the law and its enforcement, prompting a public exchange with Yousaf. Despite the controversy surrounding the legislation, Police Scotland confirmed that Rowling's actions did not constitute criminal behaviour.

Calum Steele, a former general secretary of the Scottish Police Federation, raised concerns about the diversion of resources from essential backroom functions to investigate hate crime reports. While acknowledging the importance of addressing hate crimes, Steele warned of potential repercussions on frontline policing due to resource allocation.

Police Scotland has reportedly refuted Steele's assertions, maintaining that resources are not being redirected from other areas of the force to handle hate crime complaints. However, the force declined to comment on the specific costs associated with overtime payments.

A Scottish Government spokesperson told Asian Voice, “Police Scotland have confirmed that online reports received since 1 April have been managed within Police Scotland contact centres and have not impacted frontline policing. The laws have a high threshold for proving offences of stirring up hatred and the supporting materials explain how the thresholds of the offences are assessed.”

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